Xbox Says it No Longer Collects Voice Recordings

Xbox Says it No Longer Collects Voice Recordings

Microsoft's taking a more transparent stance on data collection ahead of next-gen.

If you bought an Xbox One early on in its lifecycle and used voice commands, there's a good chance that a Microsoft contractor heard something you said. Now, after announcing that it had stopped reviewing Xbox voice recordings, Microsoft says it has also stopped collecting "data from voice search and speech-to-text conversion" from its consoles.

Word on Microsoft ending voice data collection comes from a new Xbox Wire post detailing a number of data privacy changes coming to Xbox One consoles. Soon, an update will greet Xbox owners with an overview of Microsoft's required data collection and opt-in settings.

The examples provided of the sorts of required diagnostic data Microsoft collects consist of "errors that might hamper the console's ability to run games and apps" along with success and failure of setup issues and software updates. It's under this section in the post that Microsoft clarifies its new stance on voice data collection for Xboxes:

As another step towards transparency and optimizing for your privacy, we no longer collect data from voice search and speech-to-text conversion. We continually assess what data we need to support positive player experiences on Xbox, and we have determined that this information is not what we need to accomplish that mission.

Last year, Motherboard reported that Microsoft employed contractors to listen to collected audio recordings of Xbox One users. Former contractors said they listened to clearly intentional voice commands and Cortana queries as well as accidental activations. One source said that "as time went on, [contractors] got less apparently accidental stuff as the feature improved."

At the time, Microsoft said it "stopped reviewing any voice content taken through Xbox for product improvement purposes a number of months ago" and added that it had "no plans to restart those reviews," but did not assert that it had stopped collection of voice data outright.

As for Xbox's opt-in diagnostic data collection, the first example Microsoft lists ("actions you take while using your console") is rather vague. "This data helps us improve experiences and console performance, troubleshoot and fix problems, and make better recommendations for games and apps you might enjoy on Xbox," the post adds.

Microsoft's new data collection notices and settings will also be surfaced for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, which both release on November 10.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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